Ever get the feeling plumbers have secret sources they can go to and get way better plumbing stuff than what we regular people are allowed to purchase at the big-box stores? It's true. The good news is that Teter's also makes a point of dealing with us mere retail schlubs as well as the professionals. The name is a little misleading: Teter's doesn't just sell faucets. To the pros, the name conveys that they only sell true plumbing parts, not heating and air conditioning fixtures, and they also sell mainly replacement parts, not new construction installations. Why is that important? Because it makes them specialists. First thing you notice when you go in, you have to wait in line like at the library. There's even a certain quiet tone about the place like it's the library. That's because behind the counter you have these highly trained people who do nothing but replacement plumbing parts. You show them your crusty whatever it is from your toilet. They hold it up to the light. They say, "Ah, that's a Kimble Glastite, late '20s or early '30s, I think." You never knew toilet parts could be this cool.

We've got a chicken now, have we? Had to get in on the chicken trend? And have we named our little chicken yet? Because once our chicken has a name, we can no longer go to the feed store for help when she gets sick. The feed store will tell us to cut our chicken's head off and get a new one, and we just can't be like that with little Doris the rumpless araucana now, can we? No, when poor rumpless little Doris gets wheezy, we need to take her to A&B Animal Clinic where Jim Ahumada had already developed a respected exotic bird practice long before city people ever got into chickens, which are, after all, birds. You knew that, right? Now he's the chicken vet par excellence, and we suspect it's not a bad little gig for him. We're not telling you he's going to be as cheap as the feed-store solution. But we went and gave little Doris a name, didn't we?

Sad to say, there's sort of a running chicken-and-egg debate among vets and people who deal with orphaned animals: Does animal rescue activity attract people who are already a little off or does the stress of doing it take normal people and make them that way? The grim reality is that you, the would-be adopter of a rescue animal, can plunge in with the best intentions and find yourself working with rescue people who need to be rescued worse than the animals. Straydog is a family-run rescue farm for dogs that has been in operation for almost 20 years. Somehow the extended Arnold family manages to treat more than 120 dogs in residence at any given time as if each were a family pet. If they don't have the right dog for you, they know somebody else who will — who's not all weird about it.

Orr-Reed Wrecking

Watch out! Hannah Hargrove, the owner's daughter, is home on leave from college, and she's on a mission to turn this venerable treasure yard of architectural artifacts into a whole new 21st century antique salvage yard. We would say she's going to turn Orr-Reed upside down, but, of course, the charm of the place has always been that it looks like somebody already did that. In the not-too-distant future, Orr-Reed's stacks and stacks (and stacks) of rescued lumber and house parts will be shoppable online at orr-reed.com. For now, while she's doing the necessary inventory, Hargrove is turning part of the yard over to artists as studio space. A cool place to visit, a great place to sell or buy old house innards, Orr-Reed may also be the wave of the antique future.

So you want to plant some posies in the dirt. Well, may we ask something first? What dirt? Because it makes a big difference, especially in the city, especially in this city, where you can get dirt that's way too hard, like concrete, or dirt in which previous occupants have poisoned off all the creepy-crawlies you need to make your dirt hospitable for your posies. It never hurts to improve your dirt, and the best dirt-improver we know about is Minerals Plus, made by Soil Menders and recommended by organic guru Howard Garrett. It contains three kinds of paramagnetic volcanic rock. We have no idea what that is, but it sounds awesome. It also contains lava sand, granite sand, basalt, rock phosphate, humate and montmorillonite. If you don't have any montmorillonite in your soil, we don't even know how you can show yourself in public. Good stuff. Really. Your posies will thank you.

The art of using worm doo-doo pee-pee to make your garden grow is called vermiculture, and one of the nation's best outlets for both worms and their culture happens to be right here in our midst, at Texas Worm Ranch. Heather Rinaldi is the big ranch boss, ridin' around ropin' worms all day. A farm girl from Oklahoma, Rinaldi has mastered the breeding and shipping of red wrigglers, which are kind of the Black Angus of worms. Rinaldi feeds her worms only the finest horse-barn waste and fruit and vegetable scraps and beds them down at night on mattresses made of leaves, cardboard, newspaper and rotted straw. The resulting worm poop, when mixed with fresh molasses, is an absolutely irresistible elixir for all the kinds of bacteria and other tiny creepy-crawlies that can make a garden strong and brilliant without chemicals. Health note: Be sure not to store your worm wine mixed in with the wines you keep for your own consumption. It might not hurt you, but you'd have to kill yourself anyway.

REI

OK, a few caveats here. First, UV-protective clothing is what you do AFTER you do sunblock. Sunblock protects the skin that isn't protected by clothing, and that's where you have the greater risk for cancer. Second, all clothing helps, and people with darker skin or people who just don't burn very easily probably don't need special clothes. Just don't be naked. Last caveat, REI is not the only place where you can buy good UV clothing. But if you want a really big selection and you want to talk to sales people trained in this stuff, you will never be disappointed at REI. Plus, their stuff looks good. If all we cared about was cancer and we never even thought about how we looked, we'd all be wearing our bedsheets to work.

It was Newflower, and then it was Sunflower, and then at some point recently their bags suddenly read "Sprouts," featuring a bucolic little outdoor scene replete with frolicking cows. The grocery store on North Henderson Avenue has apparently changed opaque corporate owners once again (Sprouts is an Arizona-based natural foods chain), but honestly, we don't much care. It remains one of the only grocery stores in town that actually feels like a place to stock up on food, rather than a wallet-gouging, crowd-dodging, emotionally taxing obstacle course filled with infuriatingly slow-moving yuppies. Sprouts is always manageable and uncrowded, with excellent selections of organic produce and meat. We'll readily admit that they don't have as many varieties of fresh bread as we'd like, but those bulk candy bins a few steps away always help to ease the pain.

Do you need something for your yard or balcony that just stops people dead in their tracks and makes their eyes go googly? The garden ornaments (and indoor ornaments, for that matter) at Big Mango Trading Company are just the right combination of drama and taste, all imported from Bali and Java, all made of natural elements. Bowls, urns and benches made of wood, lava stone and glass, basalt columns and megaliths, garden table-and-chair sets made of petrified wood and wonderful teak-root sculptures that look like petrified rays of the sun: Owner Lori Smith says you can drop five bucks here or 20 grand. It's up to you.

Toys Unique

The building that used to house the Toys 'R' Us on Central Expressway is now a liquor store. The old tenant just moved down the street, but it's a symbol of what's happened to the specialty toy store in the age of Walmart and Target: They've disappeared. Not Toys Unique. The family owned retailer has been holding down the corner of Lovers Lane and Inwood Road for more than 30 years, and stepping inside is a bit like walking back a few decades. There's no secret to its longevity. It has a wide selection for an independent toy store and an old-fashioned commitment to customer service. Have a question? Just ask. Want something ordered? Done. Of course, being in the Park Cities doesn't hurt either.

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